On Easter Sunday, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), a pastor at a prominent Atlanta church, sent out what some quickly condemned as a heretical message.
The senior pastor of New Ebenezer Baptist Church tweeted (and later deleted) the “meaning of Easter” far surpasses the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
At the center of Christianity is Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. In His death, the Son of God became the substitutionary atonement for humanity, bearing the weight of our sins — the judgment of God — for us. Three days later, in His resurrection, Jesus overcame sin and death, granting those who accept salvation unrestrained access to God.
Warnock, whose Twitter handle bears the title “reverend,” went on to share a message directly contradictory to the Gospel, the good news of Jesus.
“Whether you are a Christian or not,” the leftist senator wrote, “through a commitment to helping others, we are able to save ourselves.”
The lawmaker’s tweet was immediately flooded with responses from Christians calling out the heretical nature of his post, which flies in the face of the repeated and resounding message of the Gospel, which is that — no matter how hard we try or how diligently we work — salvation is forever beyond our reach, outside the person and sacrifice of Jesus. If human beings could earn their way into right relationship with God, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would have been for nought.
“You know this is literal heresy, right?” asked Conrad Close.
Allie Stuckey, an author and host of the podcast “Relatable,” added, “There is nothing more transcendent than the resurrection of the God-man, Jesus. Literally: His resurrection transcends our finite conceptions of science [and] rationality, that the Word became flesh, dwelt among us, then was slain for our sins only to conquer death [three] days later?”
“What kind of reverend would say something like this?” replied Army veteran Samuel Williams. “Jesus Christ died and then rose again to take the sins of the world away. You are poisoning the minds of Christians for political purposes.”
Sports Spectrum’s Jason Romano wrote, “With all due respect, this is literally the opposite of what the Gospel says. Ephesians 2 states that clearly. Faith alone, Christ alone.”
“Love God, love others,” Romano continued. “We should always help others. But man, that’s [not] how we’re saved. Romans, Ephesians, the Gospels all make it clear we can’t save ourselves. If we could, then Jesus [died] on the cross for nothing.”
Andrew Walker, an ethics and public theology professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Warnock’s tweet is an example of “basic theological liberalism” that is “completely at odds with the direct witness and essence of the New Testament,” adding, “There is no salvation in [the senator’s tweet] whatsoever.”
California-based Pastor Darrell B. Harrison argued, “This is what the heresy of liberation theology does — reduces the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to self-salvific moralism and thereby making ourselves God.”
Warnock was defended by progressive MSNBC host Joy Reid, who took issue with a pro-Trump attorney referring to the senator as a “heretic.”
“This lady is literally calling the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church — the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s church — a heretic,” wrote Reid. “This actually happened today. Madame, I’m gonna take [Warnock’s] take, as a pastor and a scholar on the Word, over yours, if you don’t mind.”
It’s worth noting, of course, that the apostle Paul addressed this very issue in his letter to Christians in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:4-10):
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
After facing an onslaught of criticism Sunday afternoon, the reverend-turned-senator decided to delete his controversial tweet.